Remember when Drew Brees and Eli Manning were done? Both veteran quarterbacks, both winners of Super Bowls, both in eventual discussion for the Hall of Fame (though Brees is a more certain shoo-in), and both plagued of late by depleted receiver corps, iffy offensive lines and talk of their diminished physical skills. But certainly, neither looked past his prime in the Saints’ 52–49 win over the Giants, a game in which Brees tied an NFL mark with seven touchdown passes and Manning nearly matched him with six of his own. No NFL game has ever featured more touchdown passes, and the 101 total points were the third-most in NFL history.
Interestingly enough, the Giants and Saints were also involved in record scoring games decades ago. Sunday’s game broke the record of 12 touchdown passes thrown in one game, set on Nov. 2, 1969, when the Saints beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 51–42, and both Billy Kilmer and Charley Johnson threw six touchdown passes. The highest-scoring game took place on Nov. 27, 1966, when the Giants lost 72–41 to the Redskins. That was a wild game in which the Giants had to score two touchdowns to make the game reasonably competitive at 62–41 before Washington then put it away with a touchdown and a field goal.
Nearly half a century later, the Giants lost a similarly point-prolific game in a similar fashion. The Saints went up 42–28 when Brees hit tight end Benjamin Watson for a 20-yard touchdown with 29 seconds left in the third quarter. That marked Brees’s sixth touchdown pass of the game, but Manning was just getting warmed up himself. In the fourth quarter, the G-Men went on drives of 52 and 65 yards that each ended with touchdown passes to receiver Dwayne Harris. The former Cowboy and hero of the Giants’ win over Dallas last Sunday caught just three passes for 37 yards in the game, but those two truly mattered.
New York snagged the lead on Trumaine McBride’s 63-yard fumble return for a touchdown with 7:11 left in the game. Brees hit receiver Willie Snead with a quick pass, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie knocked the ball loose. That play amazingly gave the Giants a 49–42 lead and put the pressure on Brees to make up the difference.
Not that this was an unfamiliar scenario for Brees, who did what he has done so many times, driving his team 85 yards in 14 plays and tying the game with a nine-yard bullet to C.J. Spiller with 36 seconds left in the game.
And that, as they say, is where things got interesting.
The Giants went three-and-out on their subsequent drive, and Saints rookie Marcus Murphy returned the ensuing punt to the Giants’ 47-yard line. But a facemask penalty put the ball on the Giants’ 32, setting up Kai Forbath to win the game with a 50-yard field goal as time expired.
For Manning, what will be forgotten in the loss was his ability to handle his offense under a lot of pressure. He finished his day with 30 completions on 41 attempts for 350 yards, six touchdowns and no picks. Manning had thrown five touchdown passes in his career just once, against the Eagles late in 2012. He picked apart New Orleans’s leaky pass defense with help from Odell Beckham Jr., who finished with eight catches for 130 yards and three scores. It’s a heartbreaking way to lose a game, but at least on offense, the 4–4 Giants can go forward feeling like they have more than a puncher’s chance in the NFC East.
Brees tied several players throughout NFL history with his seven touchdown passes, finishing his day with 40 completions on 50 attempts for 511 yards and one interception. He'd thrown six touchdown passes in a game once before—against the Lions on Sept. 13, 2009—and he’s thrown five touchdown passes in a game on eight different occasions throughout his career. The Saints, who stood at 1–4 after their Oct. 11 loss to the Eagles, are back to .500 and now have the slightest bit of hope in the NFC South race behind the 6–2 Falcons and 6–0 Panthers.